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Becoming semi-detached

Since I made the decision to retire from my Headteacher role before Christmas, I have found myself in a really strange position, both professionally and personally. I have become semi-detached from both my professional persona, and my personal one.

Since my imminent departure  became common knowledge, and I began to get my head round this change, I have found myself in a number of  almost surreal situations, where I am still thinking and acting as a headteacher, but at the same time I have been thinking of my future, as well as the next incumbent in my role. Sometimes this has made decision making easier, and sometimes decisions have become more difficult to make.

Decisions about future activities, that are to happen after the Easter break, have been a little easier. Some I have been able to ignore, delay or leave to the next person in post to consider. Trying to second guess what any new school leader may want to do, is difficult, and probably  undesirable. I still have to lead the two schools, but I also need to leave enough 'space' for the new headteacher to put their own mark on the role. The first part of that is quite easy, because I have still had to deal with all the daily issues that occur, and which I have dealt with throughout my career as a school leader. Such issues are a constant, as are the expectations of staff, parents and pupils. Even with these though, a bit of my mind  has also been distracted by the unfolding change ahead. There have been lots of times when I have been thinking 'well that's the last one of those, ever!' There have also been lots of times when staff, parents and even pupils have pointed out to me much the same. 'Well that's your last coffee-morning, parents evening, set of reports, headteacher meeting,' and so on. Such comments have been producing very mixed emotions, as I know I am going to miss many such activities in the future.

Of course, there is much I am not going to miss about being a headteacher. Mainly, these are to do with bureaucracy, accountability, having to prove everything you do, micromanagement, lack of trust, being a political football, and so on. The things I will miss are the people, the colleagues, the pupils, the parents, the communities and others who have bought into the vision of what we were about and supported me in delivering this. I will miss the events that happen on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, that bring the schools together and remind us of why we do what we do.

It is the people and the relationships that I will miss the most. Undoubtedly, some of these relationships are strong enough to endure. Certainly ones with staff and colleagues will continue, though may become a little more distant in nature, and less frequent. I am sure some of the relationships with pupils will last too, as I still meet former pupils who want to talk about times at school, having me as a teacher, different incidents and events. Indeed, one of the things I have noticed about contacts with former pupils, its the ones who caused you the most headaches and issues that are the ones who always want to speak to you and spend time reminiscing. Funny that.

However, it is my current mindset and situation that is the subject of this post. As I said at the start, I am really starting to feel detached, both in my mind and in my role. This is a strange place to be for  a headteacher still in post. I think it is probably a common experience for people in any job or career, once they have identified a leaving date. There is no doubt there is much I am looking forward to about retirement, and letting go of all the 'stuff' you are carrying in your head about your work will definitely be a highlight. I am also looking forward to the different opportunities presented by my new 'freedom' for action and thought. Just think, having your day totally shaped by yourself and the actions and thinking you wish, and not having them shaped by your role and demands and expectations of an employer? I am trying not to gloat, too much, and I am sure there will be challenges presented by retirement and the reshaping of my working and leisure patterns. I am hoping to be doing a lot more writing, I do have a book to finish, and to still be engaging with educators and leaders through conferences, the work of SCEL and other opportunities as they present themselves.

My aim at the moment is to complete my final two weeks, hopefully leaving enough in place to support whoever follows me. I am leaving whilst I still love my job, so I want it to end well next week. There are one or two events organised, including a night out with current and former staff and colleagues, which I have been promised is going to be 'a riot'. Not literally I hope! I am sure it will be fun and emotional, just like a lot of my career. The plan is to head for some sunshine for a short while, then return to really get stuck into that book. By then, I will be fully detached, physically, but I have a feeling I will still only be semi-detached emotionally.


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